tv Book Discussion on We Are Afghan Women CSPAN March 29, 2016 11:56pm-1:01am EDT
>> good afternoon. my name is nancy i am the president of u.s. itn i am delighted to welcome you this afternoon for her first visit, mrs. bush we are happy to have you here. also i want to welcome the ambassador from the islamic republic of afghanistan. and his wife we are delighted to have her here with us. thanks for coming this afternoon. if you are new we are in independent national institute founded by congress 30 years ago dedicated to the proposition peace is possible and practical it is essential for international security and we pursued a vision
as the chair of women's initiative at the george w. bush institute, she continues to work on innovation and empowering women, education reform and supporting the men and women who have served in america's military. >> we also have with us today miss nina who is a gender activist with more than 25 years experience in economic development and advocacy. she has extensive experience in capacity building in afghanistan. she has worked with the afghan service commission and government counterparts to increase women's participation in government. she is currently serving as the
senior gender advisor. she is also featured in the wonderful new book that we are here to celebrate by mrs. bush. finally, i'm delighted to introduce esther steven who currently serves as the board of directors, as our wise counsel and chairman. previously, he was the assistant to the president at the national security affairs for four years to then president george w. bush. from january 2001 until 1 until 2025 he was assistant to the president and deputy security advisor. please join me in giving a very warm welcome to our three wonderful gas. [applause].
>> we are delighted that all of us can be with us and mrs. bush, we are delighted to have you here at the u.s. institute. we are are delighted with your new book which is a collection of wonderful stories and if you haven't read it you really need to do so. it's a terrific book. what we are going to do this afternoon is have a conversation among mrs. bush, nina and and myself for about 25 minutes. then we will have a question-and-answer period for you. there are cards that have been distributed. please write your questions on the card and pass them to the aisle and there will be runners
coming down and getting them and passing them up to me and we will try to get through as many questions as we can. we will then turn to our panelists at the end and ask for any closing comments and then we will adjourn properly at 5:00 o'clock. we are delighted that you are all here with us for this wonderful event. i want to start, you have a long history of being a real advocate and champion for afghan women. you were the first first lady to deliver the presidential radio address in november 2001 and you spoke about the challenges and strength of afghan women at that time. why is this such a cause for you? of all the things you could take on as first lady as a cause, why was afghan women so important to you during your tenure? >> right after september 11 when the spot spotlight turned on afghanistan women, american women had saw women who are
marginalized. it was the very idea of the government that would forbid half of its population from being educated and that was shocking to americans both men and women. a lot of people started calling me to say i want to do something. what can i do to help? one of my best friends from houston called and said i used to be so glad i wasn't in your shoes, but she said now i wish i were. i'm i'm jealous because you can do something. right then they formed the u.s. afghan women's council and many women thought of various projects to support our sisters in afghanistan. that was really the beginning of my interest in afghanistan and in the women there. all the years that we lived in the white house and since, i've stayed in contact with many women that i've met through the u.s. afghan women's council or
met on my trip's to afghanistan. i wanted to write about them. >> you said you wanted to write about them, why this book in this way? by the way, if you haven't seen it, it has, it has a forward from mrs. bush. it's a wonderful illustration of the tribulations of afghan women. why this book in this particular way? >> it's called voices of hope and these are the stories of women in afghanistan and because their voices were silenced, i thought it was important for all of us to hear what they had to say. besides that, things have changed since september 11 and
the first time i visited afghanistan and i wanted people to know that. so i think this is a great way for all of us to learn not only about each of these women and one man, 11 brave man included his story, but also for us to learn more about the history of afghanistan. i think we think we know it all but their lives really show the history of the last 40 years of afghanistan, starting with, for many of them when the soviets came in in 1979. at that point some of these women immigrated to pakistan with their families. some of them ended up in the united states after that. nearly all of them went back after september 11 when they could go back. some of them were there the whole time through the years of the soviet occupation and then the years of the telegram. i wanted to tell their stories. i wanted americans to hear their stories. i am thrilled to have this opportunity to tell their
stories with this book. >> nina you are one of the people in that book. you were born in afghanistan came to the united states, spent most of your young adult life in the united states until 9/11 which was traumatic for all of us. so september 11, 2001 you decided to go back to afghanistan. tell us about your dispute decision to return to afghanistan and what you've been doing their and your life there now that you have returned. >> first tell them why you were in afghanistan? first i want to thank you and i'm very privileged to be here on the stage with you mrs. bush. i want to thank them for putting together such a dynamic event and thinking everybody to be a part of this who are here today. i was young and had just graduated from high school. my father was a diplomat and we were, he was and invested her
her at that time. we heard the russians had taken over which was a shock and it came in as such a shock that at first we didn't know, okay they invaded the country. i was so young, i didn't know the meaning of it because i was raised in the golden ages. we didn't think of war, i had never seen a gun or a tank or anything else. so to me, it, it was like okay somebody invaded and they will seize and go back. so we slowly immigrated to the united states. even my father have the attitude that after a few years we would go back and he was going to give
my father citizenship and all of that. then he said no no i am not going to do that, i'm going back in three years. to make a long story short, short, we ended up staying for 25 years. that was after september 11 happened. when that happened, of course my father was one of the first people who went and he was a deputy foreign minister. i saw the opportunity because a lot of people were telling me don't go, it's dangerous. but deep inside, all these 25 years five years i had such a passion to go back and i always thought of the afghan people being there and suffering and i always thought of being thankful and grateful of having all the opportunities that i had in the united states. so how can i reach them so there were three of us, three women
and i lived in california. the two of us decided to start doing fundraising for the afghan women and we did fundraising before because i used to do a lot of fundraising and race incentives for the camp, but this time it was different. it was like the doors had open. it's time to go now. it's time to go and give. it's time to go and help and take people's hands and what was in the darkness is in the past, let's overcome that. i've always wanted to go back but until september 11i couldn't because of the war and the taliban and and what was going on. after that, i decided to go back. >> what was it like when you went back? what was your first reaction? what was the environment after 2001? tell tell us a little bit about
the environment now. >> think being liberal in the golden days and i'm really grateful for living in america and to be honest with you, i cherish my life here because america me security, peace, serenity, education, everything. i went there, to be honest with you, for three weeks because i have two daughters and they were going to college at that time. i said i'm going for three or four weeks and then i'll be back. i've never returned. so when i went back, one thing that i found that triggered my heart and my mind at the same time, because when i landed they took me, the driver and my cousin, they took me to the american embassy. they want to me to register for
security reasons since i was an american citizen. i got out of the car and everything was done on the street at that time so it was a different time. i went ahead and started signing the papers and talking to the soldiers and i turn around, this was march 14 when i landed there i turn around and i saw this 10-year-old boy or a nine-year-old boy in raggedy clothes, barefoot, barefoot and it was kind of chilly. he was polishing my cousin's shoes for a dollar. i saw that and i totally freaked out right there. i started thinking how iris raised, when i was ten years old my nieces, my daughters, my daughters, my family and my friends my friends kids, when you're ten years old there in another world. they wouldn't polish my shoes even now.
that broke my heart right there. so the next thing i did was after a week of studying everything i called my daughters and i said there are people here i have been around. there are girls that haven't been to school. there your age and they can't even write their name. so i know you need me, i'm your mother. i'll always be there for you but do you mind if i can can stay here for a few years and help and take care of these girls and guide them and assist them in whatever way i can. so they were so supportive. i always tease them. i say no you just wanted to get rid of your nagging mom. they said no, we knew your passion, we heard you on the phone and what we have time we
will come and help you. i am really appreciative of that. otherwise i couldn't of been there. >> a word about the situation now? >> the situation now has changed. as we all know we see through the newspapers. i just came back on wednesday. things have changed more drastically. if you look at it from working 15 years ago. when you look at women empowerment, education, health clinics, hospitals the judicial system, everything is not a hundred% perfect, but at least the seeds have been planted there. let's put it that way. the only thing that is really a barrier to development of any country or anything you do in life is security. the insecurities and corruption, two things, like violation against women. i will give you an example of that.
for example, there is a justice system in afghanistan. we have a lot of good laws but there is no way of enforcing it. enforcing it because corruptions get in the way. so what i saw this time, i was there for three months. the security situation has really deteriorated. i know a lot of businesses are closing. a lot of people are becoming unemployed. so this kind of situation adds to the insecurity as well because when something goes wrong we don't know who it was. you don't know who did it. right now that's where things are and that's the security situation, but even though, we keep pushing.
we don't stop. >> thank you. ms. bush, you went to miss afghanistan in 2005, 2006 and 2008. can you talk a little bit about those trips and what you learned and some of the insight you had in the women you met during those trips? >> once i went and met the female governor of one of their providences. that is the providence that had the two huge towering buddhas in the mountain wall. i knew what they looked like from photographs, but by the time i'd went they had been destroyed and they were just rubble at the bottom of these two huge but had been destroyed by the taliban. there was this contrast between
the ancient civilization of afghanistan with these old buddhas that had been destroyed and then the idea that there was a few melt governor which was the newer thing, newer since since september 11. i remember coming to see her and what that was like and how thrilled i was to be there and see her, but then also this big symbol of destruction. >> did you meet some of the women at that time that are in your book now? >> imo that most of the women that are in the book here in the u.s. through various things. others who stories are not here. i've read from nina's story, what she just told us told us,
seeing the little boy without shoes and polishing the shoes of someone else and how that struck her in that picture stayed in her mind and her wanting to spend so much time there. i formed a lot of friendship with women in afghanistan and it's been really, some of them are here. some of the women in this book i don't know, but there are a few of them here as well today. >> and like to go back to something you started. there's a lot of intermittent press coverage here about afghanistan, most of it bad. i think we don't often appreciate how far the country has come and you started to talk a little bit about that. could you talk more about what has been accomplished here in the last 14 years or so? >> like i said earlier, we we
have accomplished a lot. fifteen years ago we didn't have girls going to school. we didn't have clinics for women. we didn't have women ministers. we didn't have women in parliament. so i can go on and on, especially business women and women advocates. the first year when i was there, let me explain it to you this way. when i first went there i was looking for women. i was looking for them all over the place. you couldn't find them. even on the street. so i ran in and i kept asking, i just just want to see ten or 15 women that i could work with and i could talk to and teach them something. they said okay, come on a friday and i will go ahead and show you
the women so you can work with them. i didn't tell anybody where i was going because i knew if i told my dad i was going to a mosque he would send guards with me or he wouldn't let me go. but i did go with my friends and to be honest with you, i walked into that mosque and i saw hundreds of women sitting there. their back was facing me when i entered and i stood there and they said you've got to be kidding me, what am i going to do with these hundreds and hundreds of women. i gave them a message and talk to them saying that i'm here to help. i'm here to empower them so that
they are not needy. they are not a charity case anymore because i'm very against them being a charity case for the afghan women. you have to learn. you have to work and earn your money in order to raise your children and help your family and husband and everyone. so that's what encourage me to put together an ngo. i put together an ngo for widows especially and i registered over 10000 women. we did an assessment and to be ominous, i had only 56 literate women of 10000. that's only high school which i'm talking. some of them were eighth grade, ninth grade. this is what happens. i was able to get funds from different institutions and donors and i did capacity building and tailoring and did english and literacy and computer classes and we started expanding. but looking today, you see a lot
of afghan women out there. this is what i'm trying to compare. at that time you couldn't find anybody but now you find hundreds and thousands of women out there in the providences or in kabul, i media for example we see them in television and their teachers. they are all over the place. it's not difficult to find afghan women now, thank god. >> one of the things in the foreword, there some very nice statistics showing the progress on health and education. one. one that struck me is that teenage girls are now 36% litter it's really remarkable progress. mrs. bush, i know one of the things that the institute and at
the presidential library, you have have been very instrumental in the women's instrument institute and continuing the work you started as first lady. what kinds of activities are going on in that project in the bush institute? >> at the bush institute, we we had four classes of women fellowships, two from egypt and tunisia. we began with those two countries because they were the first in the arab spring countries and we'd bring women all from the same country for a fellowship so that when they go home they have each other and they can introduce each other to their colleagues and their families and friends and thereby broaden their network. it shows that your network as it is important as your education level to your success. in societies where women are
inside where they don't have a chance to build the kind of networks that we as american women do. we've had four classes of egyptians and we will do another group this year of egyptian fellows. the idea is just to continue to focus on this so when they go home they have a broad network with the two groups and everybody else they've introduced each other too. that is one of the things we are working on as part of our women's initiative. we have a women's health health initiative. in africa we've added testing and treatment for cervical cancer which is the leading cause of cancer death among african-american women. we added that the aids platform that was set up when george was president. that's all across africa now and it's really helped them build health infrastructure to treat aids and now adding the testing
and treatment for cervical trip treatment. that's our global health initiative which is focused on women as well. >> the first lady's initiative began with conferences in africa with african first lady's to talk about how they can use their rolls in their country while there husbands are headed to work on issues that are important to them. we've tried to match them with corporations that are active in their countries and then talked about good governance. one african woman said i know the government paid for your close. we said no, they didn't. >> we do talk about good
governments and the ways that first lady's can influence. we've broadened not to more than just african first lady's. we have the first lady's initiative with first ladies from all around the world. what else? >> here's charity. she's the head of our women's initiative [applause]. >> then of course, the women's council which we just came from a meeting of here so afghan first lady's are part of our projects as well, working with afghan women. that's obvious that this is what this book is and that's why were here today. >> one of the things i thought is nice is it really is an honor and privilege to sit in on them meeting today. it is a bipartisan effort. it is an area where republicans and democrats have worked
together and hillary clinton wrote a nice bit on the back of the book and it continues to be a bipartisan effort here by the american people and by the congress. that's a wonderful thing. nina, i'd like like to go back to you if i might and ask you, what is the frame of mind or the spirit of afghan women today. what are they thinking about? what other hopes, especially the young women who have seen such change in their lives? when you talk to them what is their frame of mind today? what are their hopes? what are their fears? the frame of mind of afghan women, and as i said earlier, it has changed in the past 14 years they are not the same afghan women that they were 14 years ago. they have come a long way. they have learned their rights in every way and they are still learning.
i'm not saying the whole country knows all the women. they know their rights, but they are still learning. the other thing is, they have learned how to advocate. one thing i've found about afghan women, no matter if it was the golden ages or the bad days, it doesn't matter where they are, how they are or how bad it is, they have a high spirit. they are very brave, they're very courageous and they have this strong inner hope that it keeps them going all the time. i have seen women who have really been through a lot of hardship. it just surprises me that how she comes to work the next day with a smile on her face and still you don't know what she has been through. it's that mask that she wears,
live like everybody else even though things are getting rough these days i don't know if you have seen the news out there pushing and advocating and this is one example. >> lots of questions to get to as many as we can. i have a question for each and both of you before we do that. but how are you hopeful for the future of afghanistan and? and what can the international community do to sustain the gains? because i do know the spirit and the strength of the afghan women and that comes
across in the books when they are interviewed in so that makes me hopeful. bill whole international community leads to continue to do whatever we can to support the women in afghanistan to build an economy so people can have jobs and make money and become independent. those are the things we need to do. in to make sure that afghanistan has a security to build the stability to form their government and work on what they are working on.
she is very effective imparted the afghan women's cancel all sending a message to us helping to build a women's university selling traditional fathers to want their daughters to go to universities with men that there is an option and that is said good way to build women's university but it is security in their troops to help bomb that. >> are you hopeful? >> i it knowledge this is bush i agree with all security you cannot move forward as far as collapsing a raw deal. and we don't want the international community to
lead but we have started something with the international community and we have to continue to solidify and make it happen that we were there that it happened. you don't want to leave a country in chaos and that is the fear so we have to continue what we're doing and put more money into development so if we have food on the table why would you need military? dash not a politician and i of an activist. [laughter] so for me first comes the development. we do have to trade the
police and military but if you have good citizens who can be bought by your neighbors you would have a stable country but unfortunately a lot of money has not been poured into the development side of it. with the military and police. so even now the money has been allocated in then to develop people to create jobs and the trading's retrain but we don't follow.
there should be a follow-up program not short-term but long term and then everybody leads. but we have to follow up with this training was effective but if not then we have already spent a lot of money we want to see that as successful. but didn't want anybody to leave but from that development side in fact, one of the reasons that
little boys were put in to the addresses the boys were hungry and they got fed. it was a security issue as well. this is what we talk about right now we live in a very fast-paced life we want everything to happen in front of our eyes we don't invest in the future and that needs to change a sure other nations have gone through this societal change hundreds of years ago. i think it will have been in afghanistan in just don't give up and then start from scratch all over again. >> talk about the non security side this is the
question. the u.s. government is implementing the largest program of its kind so what should be the focus in the next five tenures that pertains to women and girls? >>. [laughter] not good luck. >> gets a mention in earlier many laws need to be enforced. i remember with my ngo for two months of mistreating women lawyers. it was very interesting to find out one of the lawyers was being abused at home but then went to court and try
to defend everybody else. i found that out and said if you cannot defend yourself how can you defend others'? she started crying even defending others i am not making it because the judges there have already been paid or they are stronger then be. and i always get defeated. we really need to focus on the attorneys starting from the university and then to practice with them and teaching them how to defend
themselves first. if you cannot defend yourself within your home bin you cannot defend yourself outside. and i also know lawyers and attorneys that are women but there are just a few. in the need to tap and focus of the generation that will be the next lawyers. david the past 45 or 50 i am not trying to discriminate but to change their way of work or the implementation or the attitude that is one thing to focus on is the younger generation it can be with an attitude.
that is what i think. >> job. >> there are to their related and wine is the question is really for both of you coming from the afghan news apologize there is on-again and off-again peace talks in the uncertain how it would go. those the you work with and that you have known, are their fears about the peace
process between the afghan government and the taliban what it means for the progress since 2001? >>. >> it depends on what you give up. and the last that i read is they left the table. >> the taliban have left the table recently one of those that have indicated he is willing to participate in the ft and peace process. it is still on-again off-again but there are some eight zaydis -- anxiety. >> this is through the peace
process. if you look at though whole picture with that piece council created years ago when you have those within how you arrived at peace? for those that were selected they also cater to recover those men are saying. so women are in minority and they are scared and they are fighting this. so they don't get sacrificed. and then to tell the taliban
that they'd want that to happen again because they have achieved so much and there is no way we would sacrifice that. no way. in these women come from these meetings you should see their faces. over my dead body. that is how they speak no way will give up but i have gained in 14 years and nobody would sacrifice that is not peace at the end of the day. it is just ongoing and there is a lot more involved.
then what the neighbor country is asking for. so that is maya understanding. >> we have talked a lot about women and girls in the important role of the afghan society in peace building in one of the things that came up earlier today was related to this question. how important do you think efforts are to reach men and boys as men and girls? to change the culture and values of society? >> been i said earlier one of my friends said i know why you're working with the women it is the men that need the work. [laughter]
in there are efforts to work with bin or a boy is to talk about peace and conflict resolution. but these boys were not printed better grownup now. and they taught them how to be bin. and how to live off it and they were brainwashed. and not taught how to get along with people. -- is a mother and father. in how to get along with other people. >> there is one thing that i
have recognized the first half to work with the boys in the men. because as they are brought up and they don't have to. and in the meantime look at it this way. because the boy born 30 years ago was born during the war. and you have to be protected from the women in children in girls during the war. so that was the icing on the cake with the mentality. so the boy has ingrained that. type of mentality of protect your woman in don't show your girl. they are going to change.
it will take time the be another generation or two for men to say it is okay in a normal way. it is okay if my daughter goes to work. and now you see these challenges and the war has brainwashed men. in that will be there for another 30 years but take a long time of two were three generations to see the change. >> this is a related question from george mason university. i have been raised to learn how to balance my afghan heritage with my western surroundings.
but they think it is western to have equal rights of women. in to be honest with equal rights for women. everybody went without doing their homework. hint without thinking what is the culture in the acceptance? so when we started all of these gender trainings it didn't go very well. [laughter] so you have to let people know what it means. and with african-american.
for politically to be in the senate but they have these doubts with the western issues. but anything you put forward to become from egypt or america. and they don't go for anything anymore. >> regrettably we have come to the end of our time. >> and for those questions we don't get to. i will turn to the panel and
ask. >> and would like to introduce the women in the room. please stand. >> i also want to say we left tube leak of the picture it is not as bad as we made it sound but to be involved to give afghan security as they continue to build their country and all international communities to do with their doing it earlier with the women's council so many nonprofits
have gone in maybe we need to figure out the for-profit [applause] so they can be employed and help develop the country. so they can stand up to take care of things. >> i just want to add something to this when i saw the book i am honored. family's honor to be around you. to have done an incredible job. i saw the of book and reminded me but not want to mess up. the honorable mrs bush i wanted thank you on behalf of the afghan men and women
from the work you have supported and the care you have given. >> id remembers. >> i give my first love the speech in chicago in 2004. i had to convince many leaders to believe in the capacity. and then they ended with the following sentence. this is what the afghan woman says. i feel the dark-- in the storm. the sun is out to need
our chair is agreement - - reminding us after 30 years it may be generational to evert but there are signs of progress and much hope. thank you for your collective passion and inspiration. and mrs. bush's special thanks to what you have done. it is been an honor to host everybody today to please day seated while the panel the parts. [applause]
and 48,000 of those were women. >> it was established in long beach than 104 years old in this started with a lumber terminal to supply lumber with the city of long beach in the region. with the naval station and the shipyard. and weaver's europe until the early '90s and then the naval complex shutdown and